Civil rights icon Reverend Joseph Lowery says his controversial remarks made about race were just a joke. Those comments were made at a voting rally in Forsyth, Georgia last Saturday.
Surrounded by an interracial group, Lowery, 91, explained those remarks during a press conference that started just before noon on Friday. Lowery says the remarks have been taken out of context.
He says that at the rally last Saturday in Forsyth, he said at that time he asked if there were any members of the press present, and that one lady raised her hand. He wanted to tell an off-the-record story but said apparently the woman decided to publish it any way and said that is her right.
Diane Glidewell of the Monroe County Reporter says that the Rev. Lowery "said that when he was a young militant, he used to say all white folks were going to hell. Then he mellowed and just said most of them were. Now, he said, he is back to where he was."
During the press conference, Lowery went on to say this is a story he has told hundreds of times before and uses the story to relax people, particularly when he has an interracial crowd to get everybody warmed up.
According to Lowery, he was a young man and was very militant at that time, and he believed that white people were actually going to hell and they were very devilish. Once he converted to Christianity and became a preacher, Lowery says he wasn't quite right.
"Love appealed to me as a way of life over hate. I just never hate anybody. And I never would wish anybody seriously, to go to hell," said Lowery. "In all the years , I've told that story, not one media person -- not one -- has ever used it."
Lowery has been a close ally of President Barack Obama. The retired United Methodist minister delivered the benediction at President Obama's inauguration in 2009.
Lowery, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others cofounded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. Hesays he's worked in inner racial situations all his life.
"We could never have had the gains in the Civil Rights Movement without the support and participation of God knows how many white people," said Lowery. "But I understand if this could be used to hurt Obama or help Romney, maybe somebody would want to do that."
Lowery also wanted to set the record straight about the n-word. He says it is not in his vocabulary and that the same reporter who wrote about the racial joke incorrectly implied he used the n-word.